Teal Hope

By: Jeff Doke

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The NFL Draft is one of those magical times for sports fans. A time where hope springs eternal, and your eyesight is clouded by visions of Lombardi Trophies and Belichekian Dynasties yet to be – that is, unless you’re a Raiders fan.

Of course, I don’t have much room to talk since I pull for a team that drafted a punter when Russell Wilson was still on the board.

Right now, however, is not a magical time. We are several weeks removed from the draft, a week or so past rookie minicamps, and less than a month away from the first OTAs. The new has rubbed off the recent draft picks, and the time for second guessing has begun.

For the Jaguars, the new hasn’t rubbed off the first overall pick. The open arms that have welcomed Trevor Lawrence to Duval are still wide open and our new franchise quarterback is still firmly ensconced in his honeymoon phase.

There’s really no reason to second-guess this pick; until his play on the field shows us otherwise, Lawrence was the right pick at the right time. Kind of hard to have gotten this wrong.

After that, things get a little fuzzy. When the Jags selected Travis Etienne with the 25th overall pick, I’ll be honest I was shocked. Mouth agape, hand over craw, absolute blindside shocked.

From what I can tell, Etienne was not on anybody’s radar at that pick, save for Urban Meyer. In the immediate aftermath of the selection, it seemed to make sense. You bring in a potential Hall of Fame caliber running back that already knows the potential Hall of Fame caliber franchise quarterback that was selected earlier in the round.

It seems like a great way to give both of them a little more familiarity starting this new phase of their careers. Granted, it was the first time in NFL history that a quarterback and running back from the same college team were selected by the same NFL franchise in the first round, but in a weird way it makes sense and brought some much-needed excitement to EverBank.

But are we looking at the pick “through teal-colored lenses?” Is it just the fan in us that sees what we want to see?

Realistically, was this a truly necessary pick at 25? James Robinson proved that it was a mistake not to draft him with his record-setting rookie campaign.

Did we really need another big time running back? The view through the teal-colored lenses sees shades of Kamara & Ingram, but the realist in me sees that offensive line that still needs work. Would it have made more sense to trade out of the first round, beef up the second & third rounds and get T-Law some blindside protection? That’s a solid “maybe.”

Then there’s the second-round picks. As a self-proclaimed Dawguar, I was giddy to see another Red & Black selection from my favorite pro team…but then the teal-colored lenses come off, and we see some concern.

While Tyson Campbell will compete for a starting job, his stats beg the question of whether he should be. As a three-year starter in Coach Kirby Smart’s punishing defense, Campbell allowed a 59% completion rate to opposing QBs, and had just one interception in 33 games as a Dawg.

Compare that to the other UGA corner taken in the draft – Eric Stokes (drafted by the Packers four picks after the Etienne selection) had four INTs in just nine games last year, and two of those picks were taken back for TDs.

Yikes. Now, I’m not only second-guessing the Campbell selection, I’m back to questioning the Etienne pick again.

Later in the second round at #45 overall, the O-Line finally gets the nod. Walker Little was an All-conference selection at Stanford as a sophomore, before losing most of his Junior season to a knee injury in the season opener and losing all of his Senior season due to COVID.

Potential? Absolutely. The fact that he hasn’t seen any significant game action in two full seasons gives me pause. I have similar concerns with our sole 3rd round pick Andre Cisco. He’s a ball hawk with 13 interceptions in 24 games, but he missed 11 games last year when he tore his ACL.

After colliding with a teammate. During pre-game warmups. Oof.

All total, this draft (and the post draft signing of Touchdown Timmy) leaves the fan in me feeling very optimistic of the future. That’s why I’ll be leaving these teal-colored lenses on for as long as I can, until the realist in me gets his way. Or the regular season performance tells me otherwise.

Like it has done most of these last 20 seasons.